New York Bar Exam Eligibility and Admission to the Bar

§520.6 of the Rules of the Court of Appeals for the Admission of Attorneys and Counselors at Law (22 NYCRR) governs the eligibility of foreign trained lawyers for the New York bar. You will find the full text of §520.6 online. While no one at NYU School of Law can speak on behalf of the New York Court of Appeals, we try to guide students through the process of determining eligibility for the New York bar exam and the subsequent steps to bar admission. 

The information below relates to bar eligibility and admission in New York State, the jurisdiction for which bar admission is most commonly sought by our LLM students and graduates. Those seeking qualification in another state or in multiple states should review the rules in the relevant jurisdiction(s).  The National Conference of Board Examiners provides some information about nearly all of the jurisdictions.  You may also find helpful the information on Disclosures About State Licensing on the Law School's website.

Temporary Policy and Procedure Modifications

During the pandemic, there have been modifications to the policies and procedures relevant to the New York bar examination and New York bar admission.  Given the rapidity with which rules can change, please refer frequently to the website of the New York Board of Law Examiners (or to the websites of bar authorities in other jurisdictions you are interested in) to be sure that you have accurate information.

Steps to New York Bar Admission

The following 10 steps are meant to serve as guideposts along the route to New York bar admission.  We advise students to review all of the information in advance of starting the LLM program.  In particular, students should pay attention to Steps 1-4 in the months before they arrive for the LLM program, and complete Step 5 in July (before they depart their home country for their studies at NYU).   

1. Consider whether the NY bar will be useful to you

There are important reasons to reflect on whether taking the NY bar will be helpful to you. For those hoping to practice law in New York for the long-term, NY bar admission is essential. It may still be useful for those looking for short-term employment in New York because some employers look for students planning to take the bar exam as a sign of commitment to the US market. Some students hope to work for a US-based law firm overseas, and the NY bar can be an asset (though not always a requirement) in overseas offices. Many students take the bar because they believe it completes their training as a US lawyer – you've spent the year studying US law, and finalizing your credentials with NY bar admission can complete that package.

On the other hand,  if you need a US LLM for bar eligibility, depending on your curricular interests, meeting eligibility requirements may limit your ability to choose classes. With careful planning, all of our master’s programs provide the flexibility needed to meet both degree requirements and NY bar eligibility requirements. However, only classes in certain areas of law count toward establishing bar eligibility. Flexibility to choose courses most relevant to a practice area may be more important to your career development than NY bar admission.

You may wish also to take into consideration the costs associated with seeking bar admission, such as fees for applying to sit for the exam, the cost of a bar study course as well as living expenses during the time that you will be studying for and taking the exam. 

Keep in mind that a US bar admission is not necessary for all career paths: if you are certain that you will return to your home country after the LLM, you may not need NY bar admission to advance in your career. Public international organizations, generally consider admission in a member jurisdiction an advantage, but do not necessarily require that it be a US jurisdiction. That said, if you are not admitted elsewhere, the NY Bar can serve as that admission, so it may be useful.

If you are unsure of whether NY bar admission will advance your career, consult with Clara Solomon in the Office of Career Services (OCS) and Miriam Eckenfels-Garcia in the Public Interest Law Center (PILC) to discuss your individual circumstances.

2. Review NY Bar Exam Eligibility Requirements

The NY Board of Law Examiners (NY BOLE) interprets and applies the Rules of the New York State Court of Appeals for the Admission of Attorneys and Counselors at Law (hereafter “the Rules”) on eligibility to take the NY bar exam.

Some students with law degrees from what NY BOLE considers to be purely common law jurisdictions will be found eligible to sit for the NY bar on the basis of their first law degree. However, many students will need both to complete the LLM degree and take particular classes during the LLM in order to establish NY bar eligibility.

According to Section 520.6 of the Rules, there are four basic requirements for establishing eligibility as a foreign-trained lawyer (See the Foreign Legal Education section of the NY BOLE website):

  • You must have fulfilled the educational requirements to be admitted to practice law in a country other than the United States by completing a program of law school study.
  • The foreign law school or schools that you attended must be accredited by the government or authorized accrediting body to award a first degree in law.
  • Your program of study for your foreign law degree must have been for an amount of time substantially equivalent to the period of study for a US JD at an ABA-approved law school and substantially comply with the instructional and academic calendar requirements set forth in Sections 520.3 (c)(1)(i) and (ii) and 520.3(d)(1) of the Rules.
  • Your study for your foreign law degree must be based “upon the principles of English Common Law” and the course of study must be substantially equivalent to legal education at a US law school.

Applicants may “cure” durational or substantive deficiencies (but not both) by obtaining an LLM degree at an ABA-approved law school in the US.  To qualify under the “cure” provision, applicants must:

  • Earn an LLM degree within 24 months of matriculation.
  • Take a minimum of 24 semester hours of credit in courses requiring classroom instruction.
  • A maximum of four credits may be earned in summer courses.
  • Coursework must be completed physically at the campus of the ABA-approved law school in the US. No credit is allowed for distance, correspondence or external study or for any DVD or online program or course.
    (Note: Strict compliance with this rule has been waived by the NY Court of Appeals through the end of the Fall 2021 semester.)
  • Non-classroom credits, for example, those earned for Directed Research or for serving as a Research Assistant do not count toward the credits required.

3. Note Coursework Required During the LLM Under the “Cure Provision”

To establish NY bar eligibility under the “cure” provision, the LLM program must include a specified minimum number of credits for classes in four areas. For a detailed description of required coursework, refer to Section 520.6(b)(3)(d).

If you need a US LLM to establish bar eligibility, the LLM degree program must include:

  • A: professional responsibility (2 credits);
  • B: legal research, writing and analysis (2 credits);
  • C: American legal studies (2 credits); and
  • D: subjects tested on the New York State bar examination (6 credits)

View the list of NYU Law classes that have been approved by the NY Court of Appeals to fulfill the above requirements.

The LLM degree program may—but does not need to—include credits in the following types of classes as a part of the overall 24 credits required:

  • Credits in clinical courses as long as the clinic course has a classroom component.
  • A maximum of six credits in other courses related to legal training (so long as the course is taught by a faculty member at the law school awarding the LLM or an affiliate school and the course is completed at a campus in the US).

4. Be Aware of NY Bar Admission Requirements

After you have passed the relevant exams, you apply for NY bar admission. As part of the admission process, you will need to show compliance with the following additional requirements both of which you may be able to complete before starting your LLM studies.

Skills Competency 

The Skills Competency requirement is applicable to students commencing the LLM in August 2018 or later; they must show competency to provide legal services in New York State (§520.18 of the Rules).

To establish competency NYU Law LLM students must use the pathways described in subsections (a)(4) and (a)(5) of the Rule. These two pathways allow candidates to establish competence before or after the LLM through legal apprenticeship or legal practice in the US or another jurisdiction. For further information review the FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS FOR NEW YORK’S SKILLS COMPETENCY AND PROFESSIONAL VALUES BAR ADMISSION REQUIREMENT (PDF: 264 KB).

Pro Bono Requirement

Under the New York State Pro Bono requirement, persons applying for admission to the New York State Bar must file an affidavit showing that they have performed fifty hours of qualifying pro bono service.  You will be required to complete the affidavit form (PDF: 247 KB), including certification by your attorney supervisor, for the qualifying pro bono project(s) that you do. It is recommended that you complete the form(s) at the time you complete the pro bono work. You can find Rule 520.16 (PDF: 115 KB), the affidavit form, and Frequently Asked Questions (PDF: 487 KB) on the NY Courts website.

If you do not fulfill the pro bono requirement in the year before you start the LLM, you may opt to do pro bono work during the LLM. In fact, pro bono work is a great way to connect to New York City’s rich legal community. Detailed information on the pro bono requirement, including how to search for pro bono opportunities, is available from NYU Law’s Public Interest Law Center.  If you are a current student or alum, contact Miriam Eckenfels-Garcia, Associate Director, to discuss how to connect with pro bono opportunities.

5. Request Evaluation of Your Foreign Academic Credentials

All foreign-trained lawyers who wish to sit for the NY bar exam must show that their first degree in law meets certain requirements. To request evaluation of your foreign academic credentials: 1) complete NY BOLE’s online request form (indicate that you are entering an LLM program at NYU School of Law); 2) request that supporting documentation be sent directly to NY BOLE.

Supporting Documents

Typically, after you complete the online form to request evaluation of your foreign law credentials, NY BOLE will send an email detailing the documents needed to support your request. 

The required documents, submission procedure, and additional documents that may be requested are listed on NY BOLE's webpages on Foreign Legal Education (See Roman Numerals VI – VIII).  Also see the instructions on the website to Request Evaluation of Academic Credentials.

What to Submit

  • Official Transcript(s). Every law school you attended must send an official transcript to NY BOLE.
  • Degree Certificate. If the official transcript does not clearly state the degree awarded and/or the date such degree was awarded, you must also furnish the degree certificate.
  • Proof of fulfillment of the educational requirements for admission to the practice of law in the foreign country. 
    • (a) If you are admitted to practice law in a foreign country, attach a copy of your admission certificate; or
    • (b) If you are not admitted to practice law in a foreign country, submit proof of the educational requirements for admission to practice law in your country and proof from the bar admission authorities that you have fulfilled these requirements.
  • Accreditation. Submit a written statement from the competent accrediting agency of your foreign government that the law school or schools you attended were recognized by them as qualified and approved throughout your period of study.

Important note: Documents from schools and bar licensing organizations should be sent directly by these institutions to NY BOLE.  Be sure that all documents submitted on your behalf include your NY BOLE identification number.

If you are not admitted to practice, you are asked to submit proof of the educational requirements for bar admission and proof you’ve fulfilled those requirements.  We advise that you may submit a copy of the statute that governs bar admission, and request that the relevant licensing organization send a letter to BOLE including the statement that you have successfully completed the educational requirements for admission to practice law in the country where you received your foreign law degree. Some applicants request this letter from their foreign law school. It is up to NY BOLE (and not NYU Law) to determine what documentation is acceptable.  

Not all candidates need to submit documentation regarding law school accreditation. When completing the Request for Evaluation, you will find a drop-down menu including law schools which NY BOLE recognizes as accredited.  If the qualifying first law degree is from one of the schools listed, further evidence of accreditation likely will not be required.

Translation

If documents required by NY BOLE are in a language other than English, you’ll need to provide translations.  You cannot translate the documents yourself – they must be translated by an official translator.  You can send translations directly to NY BOLE; they do not have to be sent by the issuing school or other institution.

When to Submit 

We recommend that July bar-takers submit supporting documents to NY BOLE a year or so in advance of the July exam.

Your Law School and also perhaps the bar licensing organization in your home country will need to send documents directly to NY BOLE – these institutions make take some time to respond to your requests. Additionally, NY BOLE may find that a document you have submitted is insufficient and request further information. If possible, respond promptly to requests for further information and ensure that the additional documentation requested is received by NY BOLE’s deadline of October 1 for the July bar exam and May 1 for the February exam.

In the event you don’t receive an email from NY BOLE confirming receipt of any documents you submit to them, follow up with a phone call. 

6. Apply and Sit for the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE)

Most of our students who take the UBE choose to sit for the July administration of the exam after graduating from the LLM program. Some students choose, for a variety of reasons, to put off taking the exam until the following February.

Those taking the exam in July will usually begin studying for the UBE immediately after final exams are over and until the date of the exam.  Many of our JD and LLM graduates who are taking the NY bar exam enroll in a bar review course – these are provided by private companies with instruction delivered in a variety of modes.  Before investing in a particular bar preparation course, discuss the various options with others who have studied for and passed the UBE and consider your learning style and what will be most convenient for you.

Application

To apply to sit for the UBE, complete the online electronic application on the NY BOLE website. The application filing period for the July administration of the UBE is April 1 - 30.  Students applying for the February administration of the UBE do so in the period November 1 - 30.

The application fee for foreign-trained attorneys is $750. This fee is not refundable if a determination of your eligibility is not made in time for you to sit for the upcoming exam, or if you are found to be ineligible.

Taking the UBE

New York administers the UBE on the last Tuesday and Wednesday of both July and February in New York City, Albany and Buffalo. 

The UBE consists of three parts:

  • Multi-State Essay Exam (MEE) – Consists of six 30-minute questions. Areas of law that may be covered include: Business Associations, Civil Procedure, Conflict of Laws, Constitutional Law, Contracts, Criminal Law and Procedure, Evidence, Family Law, Real Property, Torts, Trusts and Estates, and Secured Transactions. The particular areas covered vary from exam to exam.
  • Multi-State Performance Test (MPT) – consists of two 90-minute skills questions covering legal analysis, fact analysis, problem solving, resolution of ethical dilemmas, organization and management of a lawyering task, and communication.
  • Multi-State Bar Exam (MBE) – a six-hour, 200 question multiple-choice examination covering contracts, torts, constitutional law, criminal law, evidence, and real property.

Testing Procedures

The New York Bare Exam Information Guide (PDF: 96.4 KB) gives a comprehensive description of testing processes and policies.

Also review the FAQ page for the UBE, NYLC, NYLE.

7. Complete the NYLC and NYLE

An applicant for admission in New York, must also take and complete an online course in New York-specific law, known as the New York Law Course (NYLC), and must take and pass an online examination, known as the New York Law Exam (NYLE).

The NYLC

The NYLC is an online, on-demand course on important and unique principles of New York law. The NYLC consists of approximately 17 hours of recorded lectures with embedded questions which must be answered correctly before an applicant may continue viewing the lecture. An applicant must complete all of the videos before the applicant may register for the NYLE. An applicant may complete the NYLC up to one year before, or within three years subsequent to, taking the UBE.

The NYLE

The NYLE is a 50 item, two-hour, open book, multiple choice test on New York laws and rules. The NYLE is administered online and offered four times per year. Please note you may not register for the NYLE until you have completed the NYLC. After an applicant has successfully completed the NYLC, the deadline to register for the NYLE is 30 days prior to the date of the NYLE.

The FAQ page for the UBE, NYLC, NYLE is also available on the NY BOLE website.

8. Register For and Take the Multi-State Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE)

The MPRE is another required exam for admission to the NY bar. It measures the examinee's knowledge and understanding of established standards related to a lawyer's professional conduct. The MPRE is based on the law governing the conduct of lawyers, including the disciplinary rules of professional conduct currently articulated in the American Bar Association (ABA) Model Rules of Professional Conduct (MRPC) and the ABA Model Code of Judicial Conduct (CJC), as well as controlling constitutional decisions and generally accepted principles established in leading federal and state cases and in procedural and evidentiary rules.

View detailed registration information for the MPRE.  The test is typically offered in March, August and November.  Some LLMs opt to take the exam in August, after the July UBE.  If you plan to take the MPRE during your LLM studies, consider taking the exam in March, rather than November, so that you can use the spring break to prepare for it.

9. Arrange for NYU Law to Submit the Certificate of Attendance

For those who need a US LLM to establish NY bar eligibility, NY BOLE requires both an official copy of the LLM transcript (showing completion of the requirements of an LLM degree), and a Certificate of Attendance certified by the Law School. 

You must complete and submit the NYU State Bar Request Form and the Certificate of Attendance (available on NY BOLE’s website) to the Law School’s Office of Records and Registration.  After completing both forms, email them together to law.registration@nyu.edu. For July bar-takers, these forms must be submitted by May 31.

After receipt of these two forms, and following your graduation from the LLM program, the Law School will send to NY BOLE an official copy of your transcript and the certified Certificate of Attendance form.

If you are eligible for the NY bar exam on the basis of your first law degree alone, you do not need to complete this step.

10. Apply for Admission to the Bar and Complete Character and Fitness Review

In addition to passing the relevant exams and meeting the pro bono and skills competency requirements discussed above, you also must undergo an assessment of your Character and Fitness as a part of the application process to be admitted to the NY bar.  

Process to Apply for Admission

NY BOLE certifies you for admission to one of the four judicial departments of the Appellate Division in the State and sends you a “Notice of Certification.” The judicial department to which you are certified is based upon your address.

You will file an application for bar admission with the judicial department to which you’ve been certified. Processes vary across the four judicial departments. Depending on the department to which you are assigned, you may or may not be permitted to file an application for admission before learning whether you’ve passed the bar exam. (Regardless of whether you can file for admission before learning the results, you must pass the bar exam, NYLC and NYLE, and the MPRE in order to continue with the admission process.)

The application for admission includes: 

  • A questionnaire;
  • Affidavits of Good Moral Character; 
  • Legal Employment Affidavits from every law-related position you have held (including paid or unpaid internships, summer associate positions, volunteer work in law school clinics or elsewhere); 
  • Law school certificates for you to fill out and send to every law school you attended so that the law school can complete its portion of the form and send it directly to the judicial department; and
  • Affidavits showing that you have met the Skills Competency and Pro Bono requirements.

The questionnaire and other required forms are posted on the NY BOLE website.

Character and Fitness Interview

As a final step in the Character and Fitness Investigation, the judicial department will ask you to appear for an interview with a member of its Committee on Character and Fitness.  

Oath of Office

Applicants who are approved by the Court are asked to attend a swearing-in ceremony at which candidates appear before the Court on a specified date to take the constitutional oath of office as an Attorney and Counselor-at-Law.

Responsibilities to maintain licensure after becoming licensed to practice in New York are explained on the New York Court of Appeals website.